Based on Naaleh.com shiur by Mrs. Shira Smiles
Channie Koplowitz Stein
Two of the
unique to Purim are
, sending delicacies to others and giving gifts to the poor. What is the significance of these
in their relationship to Purim? Further, it seems that
(charity). Why then do we call it gifts?
The unique mitzvot of Purim encapsulate within them all the mitzvot of the Torah, writes the Mearchei Lev, citing Rav Zadok. One of the key verses of the Megilah is, "Layehudim haytah orah ve'simchah ve'sasson ve'yekor." (The Jews had light, gladness, joy, and honor.) Chazal explain that orah is Torah,simchais yom tov,sasson parallels brit milah, and yekor symbolizes tefillin. Each of these also parallel one of the Purim mitzvot. Reading the Megilah relates to reading the Torah. After the miracle of Purim we accepted the Torah with love. This is compared to our acceptance of the Torah after our deliverance from Egypt. The gladness of yom tov is experienced through sending gifts of food and connecting two disparate elements, such as body and soul, husband and wife, and ultimately one Jew to another. Joy represents our connection to Hashem through circumcision. And finally, the honor of a Jew shines forth from his forehead and arm as he dons the tefillin that bind him and all that he does. Thus the whole day is interconnected.
Bnei Yisrael saw the hatred that can grow from one small snub, when Mordechai refused to bow to Haman. After this they were determined to repair any cracks in their relationships. This, writes the Chochmat Hamatzpun, is why mishloach manot and matanot laevyonim are such central elements on Purim, for they sensitize us to the needs of others and reinforce our concern and love for one another.
The gifts we can give do not have to be monetary. Acknowledging a stranger in shul by greeting him with shalom aleichem is also a gift, writes Rabbi Friefeld. Haman tried to prove that we were a divided people, but Esther countered this with the command to gather all the Jews together. To continue fostering this unity, our Sages mandated sending mishloach manot and gifts to the poor. Rabbi Pincus explains that the mitzvah is called gifts to the poor rather than tzedakah precisely so that we will view these as gifts that come from feelings of love. We foster love by giving to one another, writes Rabbi Friedlander. The Netivot Shalom echoes this theme. Amalek tried to divide us. To counter this, we have the mitzvot ofmishloach manot and matanot la'evyonim which create love, unity, validation, and equality. Therefore, giving gifts to the poor is distinct from tzedakah. Sefer Apiryo noffers a related idea.Chazal wanted to ensure that everyone would be able to partake of the simchaof Purim with a festive meal. Rather than embarrass the poor who would receive handouts, they instituted mishloach manot to everyone, so no one would distinguish those who were getting gifts due to poverty from those of more ample means.
Rabbi Gamliel Rabinowitz interprets the verse in Psalm 30, "Pitach tasakiva't'azreini simcha." When I open my sack and give gifts to others with no ulterior motive, I too am girded with joy. Just as we perform the mitzvah of brit milah with no ulterior motive, so should giving gifts to the poor be with no conditions. That is thesasson, the joy of Purim. Medrash Eichah states that when the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed and Bnei Yisrael were sent into exile, they cried to Hashem asking for mercy. They said, "We are orphans without a mother and father." Hashem responded by promising to bring salvation through another orphan, Esther, whom Mordechai took in as a child and raised her. This altruistic fatherly act of chesed, writes the Matnas Chaim, served as the catalyst for Hashem to redeem us. Similarly, when we give matanot la'evyonim,we show that we care about others, and we can ask Hashem to send brachot to us.
The destruction decree of the Jews on Purim was already sealed, but was overturned when Esther begged Achashverosh's during the feast. Similarly, we can ask Hashem to hear our pleas during our Purim seudah and they will be answered, writes the Netivot Shalom. We can ask and pray for gifts from Hashem when we give mishloach manot and matanot l'evyonim with open hearts, writes Rav Meislish.
May Hashem hear our prayers and grant us salvation from our enemies as He did so many generations earlier.